Note: Written for a prompt at Taming the Muse: Prince Charming. For once the prompt matches what I was planning to write.


Rupert forced himself to stillness as everything he'd ever wanted was taken away. Even a goodbye had been denied him, not by that other Rupert, but by fate. Ethan was unconscious: dying. Buffy, the other Buffy, held Ethan as gently as a mother might cradle a wounded child. His own Buffy would never have cradled Ethan in such a manner. His Ethan didn't deserve such gentle treatment. The other Rupert huddled over Ethan protectively even as he cast angry glances across the room, warning Rupert that this Ethan wasn't for him.

A map was thrown to the floor by the dark-haired stranger, Tom. He touched it with a blooming magic wand and a portal opened. Buffy, carrying Ethan, stepped into the portal and fell through. Rupert, Xander, Willow, and Tom as well as his two friends followed after. The map vanished with the portal leaving Rupert alone with the children – his Buffy, his Willow, and his Xander or, if not his, at least the Buffy, Willow, and Xander from his dimension. Rupert stared at the foot of the bed, at the place where he'd last seen Ethan, and waited for the shouting to start. Willow would try to smooth things over but Rupert was certain that neither Buffy nor Xander could ignore his "romantic" past with Ethan.

There was a shuffling behind him. "We'll, uh, see you tomorrow big guy."

"Are you okay getting home on your own?" Buffy asked. Ah, it wasn't to be shouting after all; it was to be denial.

"Yes." He didn't turn to look at them. He'd never see Ethan, not his Ethan but the man his Ethan could have been, again.

"Are you sure?" He could feel Buffy approach. "I could stay."


They left quietly but with enough shuffling that Rupert could hear when they were gone. He stood over the bed and dropped his hand down to the pillow as if to brush a cheek that was no longer there. His hand clutched empty air.

He should have had … The other Ethan had seemed like something out of a fairy tale, like something one could wish for but never hold: a Prince Charming who faded to dust at the mere hint of a kiss. Rupert's eyes fell shut as he dropped to the side of the bed, but he still couldn't stop the visions. He saw Ethan give a shout of relief and throw himself into the other Rupert's arms. He saw them come together so tenderly that he stood, twisting as he rose, and punched his hand into the wall. His knuckles came back bloody. There was a fetish on the floor, a clay medallion carved with a Chaotic sigil. Rupert threw it against the wall where it smashed into a dozen shards. Ethan. Ethan had cheated him. Ethan had offered him a Grail of pure bliss but had turned it to poison when Rupert had raised the cup to his lips. Rupert's hands clenched into fists. Ethan wasn't about to get away with it.

Rupert returned to where it had begun, at least in this cycle. He smashed through the glass window, shattering Ethan's name, painted out in gold, into a thousand shards. Ethan he found running for the back door. Rupert slammed him into the wall and shoved a fist into his gut. Ethan came up gasping. "What? You didn't care for my present? Or is it that you cared too much?"

Rupert's fist found Ethan's jaw. Ethan wiped the blood from his face. "Are you punching me because you can't hit him or because you can't fuck him? Are you planning to tie me to a chair as well?"

Rupert stumbled back as if Ethan had punched him. He'd hit Ethan, the other Ethan, a man whom, if he'd been given half a chance, Rupert could have loved. Rupert fled the shop, fell against the side of the building, and slid down the brick facing as it hit him. Ethan wasn't his, had never been his, and never would be his.

"Come on, Ripper, don't run away. We could have such fun. Punch me again. Or kiss me. After all, it's all one and the same." The voice came closer. "Ripper? Ripper?"


There was silence then, a blessed silence he could drown in, but it didn't last. Nothing good ever lasted. "Giles?"

He felt hands on either side of his face. "Giles?" She seemed to be shouting. "Giles?" He raised a hand to her cheek and felt the wetness there. She'd been crying. Of course she'd been crying. Nothing good ever lasted.

"Giles, I need you."

"Buffy." He pulled himself together for the girl. He had nothing else left.